A Squash and a Squeeze

What truly makes us happy? Many believe that happiness is dependent on our life circumstances. But, honestly, what really contributes to our overall happiness is not what happens to us, but rather what we make of our situation – our perspective.

A Squash and a Squeeze by Julia Donaldson is a beautiful children’s story that has always been a favorite with my daughters, and unlike many of the other books that I read to them, where I am wondering guiltily if they will really notice if I skip a page or five, this is a book I have no problem reading…again and again.

The story centers on a little old lady who is dissatisfied with the size of her house, calling it a squash and a squeeze, but, with the advice of a wise old man (resembling a venerable rabbi one might find in the study halls of the ultra-Orthodox community of Lakewood), who suggests that she bring in farmyard animals into her home, she soon discovers that it’s not as small as she thought.

Not understanding, at first, why bringing animals into her already-small home would help her predicament, she questions the wisdom of the wise old man’s advice, but nonetheless welcomes in animals, one by one, who wreak havoc on her home.

The wise old man’s final piece of advice is to take out each animal, one by one, and by the time her home is an animal-free zone, nafal ha’asimon, the penny has dropped, and she realizes that her home, after all, is not quite the “squash and the squeeze” she originally felt it to be.

To me, this sweet story captures the essence of life, where I too have experienced my fair share of “squash and squeeze” moments.

Four months ago, we bade farewell to our spacious house and the creature comforts that we took for granted while living in the US, and moved to a considerably smaller property in Israel – an apartment that required some adjustment.

But truthfully we weren’t as worried for ourselves as much as we were worried for our kids. How would they feel now having to share bedrooms? How would they cope living in an apartment building versus a private home?

The “squash and a squeeze” anxiety weighed heavily on us when we were considering our return to Israel.

Children are our greatest teachers. Living in a neighborhood in Israel where most of the community children live in apartments too, as opposed to large houses, they accepted our move and our new apartment without question, complaint, or disappointment.

Perspective is everything. Leaving the Diaspora, and returning to Israel, provided a much-needed escape from the materialistic mindset, where the size of your house, your basement, your holiday destinations, determines the size of your happiness.

The greatest gift you can give your child is the life lesson that his or her self-worth comes from the inside, not from material possessions.

The question is not what you look at, but what you see. – Henry David Thoreau

About the Author
Sorelle Weinstein is Content Manager for Nefesh B'Nefesh. Previously, she worked as a book editor for eighteen years specializing in works of Jewish interest. She lives in Rehovot with her husband, three daughters, and Golden Retriever, Cadbury.
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